You might be forgiven for thinking the busiest time of the year for firefighters is summer, but that’s often not the case.
Wodonga Fire Brigade Station Officer Sam Dennis said firefighters had already dealt with a number of preventable fires across the North East this winter.
“Bushfires get a lot of media attention but our structure fires, car accidents and general jobs don’t get as much – but we’re actually quite busy over winter,” he said.
“We’ve had multiple house fires this season relating to a range of issues; whether it’s incorrect use of wood or electric heaters, or it’s poor habits in regards to cooking in the kitchen or drying clothes.”
Mr Dennis said most of these fires could have been prevented.
“Monday night was a prime example; we had a house fire in Ovens and a shed fire in Corryong,” he said.
“With the shed fire, it sounds like someone was working there during the day, and it could have been a preventable fire.
“We had a house fire at Tallangatta Valley two months ago where a coonara (heater) door wasn’t closed properly and a log rolled out – the whole house was destroyed.
“With the structure fire in the Rutherglen fish and chip shop last Sunday night, the oil got too hot and ignited.
“There’s minor things you can do to mitigate risks.”
Statistics released this week show more than 40 per cent of preventable house fires in Victoria last year occurred in the kitchen.
Mr Dennis said this statewide trend aligned with call-outs across the North East.
“It’s generally cooking left unattended in kitchens – someone will put something on the oven and get distracted and forget about it,” he said.
“Overloading the power circuits is another one – some of these electrical heaters draw a lot of power and it won’t take much in the older houses for them to overload the circuit, create a fault and ignite.
“People can get complacent with cleaning chimneys and checking their smoke detectors are working.
“They need to drill home with the kids things like keeping clothes away from heaters and making sure electrical blankets are turned off at night.”
The were 113 fewer preventable house fires in Victoria last year, but that still translated to an average of more than eight each day.
This resulted in 14 fatalities and property loss of $88.6 million.
Unattended cooking was the most common cause of fires with 493 call-outs, followed by faulty electrical appliances and distribution, chimneys, heating and smoking.
CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said it was also important to never leave candles unattended.
“Taking small safety precautions could be the difference between life and death,” he said.
There were more than 30 preventable house fires in the North East:
- Wodonga: 14
- Alpine: 10
- Indigo: 6
- Towong: 2
- Falls Creek Resort:1
- Mount Hotham Resort: 1